(See post below for an introduction to this topic.)
Naomi Novik is a new fantasy author writing an alternate Napoleonic-era world in which each country has, in addition to its army and navy, an aerial corps staffed by dragons and their human companions. Think Aubrey/Maturin, if Maturin had been a dragon. And if you're at all into either fantasy or historical adventure, you must read this series, because it's truly wonderful.
Here is the US cover for the first book:
His Majesty's Dragon - US
And here is the UK cover:
Temeraire - UK
Note the difference in titles. I don't know why this is the case (and the US and UK titles are the same for the second and third books in the series, Throne of Jade and Black Powder War). But my guess is that the publishers concluded that UK readers would have an association for "Temeraire," since several British warships bore that name, including one at Trafalgar, while US readers would not. (Temeraire is the dragon--the human protagonist, formerly a naval captain, names the dragon hatchling after the ship.)
Moving on to the covers, note that both show a black dragon and a tall ship flying a British flag--a perfect choice, IMO. The dragon tells you this is a fantasy novel, the flag reveals that it's set in an alternate version of our world rather than an invented realm, and the ship gives you a good idea of the time frame. Both art departments nailed the "truth in advertising" side of cover design. And, for me at least, dragons and tall ships are both inherently evocative images.
The main differences I see are the backgrounds--a textured scarlet for the American cover and an antique map for the British one--and the relative prominence of the elements. The dragon dominates the US cover, while the UK cover gives more space to the ship. And if you think about the nations' histories, that makes perfect sense. Britain was THE great naval power for quite a few centuries, so the UK cover evokes Trafalgar, Britannia ruling the waves, etc. On this side of the pond, while the US navy has won its share of glory, it's not as much part of our identity, and in any case its finest hour was after the Age of Sail. So the US emphasizes the dragon and therefore the story's fantasy element.
As I stated in my previous post, I like the US cover better. But that's not because I'm more interested in dragons than ships. Patrick O'Brian is one of my top ten favorite authors, probably top five. Put a tall ship on a book, and I've picked it up before I've noticed I'm doing so, with John Masefield ringing through my head. No, what I like about the US cover is that there's a certain stark simplicity about it, with the contrast between the red background and the black dragon framing the ship. It draws my gaze. The UK cover, on the other hand, strikes me as busy. The map background, while beautiful, gives the image a more cluttered look to my eyes, and separating the dragon and the ship makes the cover lack a single focal point. The individual elements are all beautifully done, but it just doesn't grab my attention in quite the same way.
Thoughts? Which cover do you prefer?